Friday, March 30, 2012

More Tasty Notes

Hey, it's a sunny Friday afternoon, I just mowed the lawn, and I'm having...a lawnmower beer! I got some samples of Kona Longboard Lager, in 12 oz. cans, and chilled one for after the grass was cut. Poured yellow and white in my willibecker glass, smelled lightly malty, and tasted just like that. Reminded more of a Munich helles than anything else, maybe a bit lighter in body, but with that nice malty dryness. Very easy to drink indeed.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More Housekeeping...Captcha probably returning

I gave it a shot, folks, but I'm getting comment spam on an hourly basis. I suppose I could just dump it all once a day, but it's clogging up my inbox. I'm probably going to put the Captcha back on, and complain to Google. This will result in my being ignored, and it will piss you off. Perhaps YOU could complain to Google about their Captcha?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Happy birthday, Devil's Den

I've been doing some events with Erin at Devil's Den (and at her other place, the Old Eagle Tavern), and generally having a good time...and you know what they say about time flying when you're having fun: Devil's Den is 4 years old already! I know this because I got an email from Erin about it...
Join us Sunday, April 1st, for our four year anniversary party. We will be hosting a complimentary buffet from 4 - 7pm. We will be tapping a selection of special, limited drafts along with some of our favorite beers. Look for a specially made oak-aged Stillwater Folklore on our hand pump, Malheur 10, Voodoo Love Child, Central Waters Peruvian Morning along side Spaten, Franziskaner and Ommegang drafts.  We hope to see you there. 
You'll have to drink my share; I'll be at the American Distillers Institute craft distilling conference in Louisville. Cheers!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grab Bag o' Tasting Notes, Part 2

Moving right along...

Genesee sent me a box full of Dundee samples (not related to the Genesee beers in the previous post -- that was bought and paid for...by Sam, for me), and one was a new one: Dundee Irish Red Lager. Reminds me of the Killian's, but with a sharper edge up front, and a sweeter, smoother finish. Again, this is a good non-hoppy beer, and there are people out there who like craft beer that isn't hopped to the nines. I'm betting this would be good with aged, firm cheeses, or beef stews. It's pretty good on its own.

Sigh...I was going to taste two new "white IPAs" from Saranac and Deschutes...but I've run out of time. Leaving for Chicago for WhiskyFest tomorrow, and I suspect I may have some fun stuff to write about. Talk to you later.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Grab Bag o' Tasting Notes

Had some good and not-so-good beers lately, and thought I'd put them all up together.

First, not-so-good: Samuel Adams Third Voyage double IPA (8.0%). Wanted to like this, had an interesting story about Captain Cook's 3rd Voyage (to New Zealand and the PacNW, where they got the hops for this twin-hemi hopped beer)...but while it had a spicy, fruity, piney nose, the beer itself was heavy, almost logy, and thick in the mouth. I know double IPAs are big, but the really good ones are much lighter on their feet than this.

Then, Samuel Adams turns around and delivers on the Belgian Session ale, at 4.3% (some details here), and it was wonderful. Skillful brewing got a lot of flavor out of the yeast, spices, and fruit peels in the beer, and that's what session beer brewing is all about. This one is a cross between a Belgian pale and a witbier, and it works quite well: the spicy notes mingled with light and creamy orange, and the whole thing finishes crisp and dry. This isn't me liking session beer, this is me liking a good beer.

I picked up two beers from Blatant Brewery in Massachusetts two weeks ago, and reviewed the Blatant Session here. I liked it, but I liked the Blatant IPA (6.5%) even more. The hops are firmly up-front, with an insistent pine-and-pith aroma and a captivating (and appetizing) bitterness on the tongue, and the whole of the beer trips lightly on the tongue, an agile dancer of an IPA that twirls and stamps. Delicious, and I wish I'd bought more.

I mentioned the newly reformulated Killian's Irish Red in my St. Patrick's Day post (you know, the one and only one), and it deserves further mention.I remember the way Coors originally did Killian's, back in the 1980s: a surprisingly estery ale, quite tasty, a beer I used to buy by the keg. Then they changed it...and it was bland, but still red, and propped up by plastic paddy marketing. This new beer is still a lager, I think, but the new Killian's is much more malty than the debased reddish-amber flab-bag it had become. It's slippery-smooth, with some juicy Vienna-like malt in the middle, and a good malt finish. Again, surprising. Definitely one I'd buy if I were out in a bar.

I also got a variety 12-pack of Genesee beers from my good friend Sam Komlenic for my birthday last month, and I cracked out two of them, too. 12 Horse Ale was an old fave, but...wow, not so much. Blunt, even coarse, to the point where I was thinking to myself, man, I hope this has changed, because I'd hate to think I once liked a beer like this. But the old reliable, Genesee Cream Ale, was a fun beer to drink! I wasn't expecting much after the 12 Horse wagon crash, but Genny Cream was sweet and light, showing the cream ale style that won multiple GABF gold medals (Genny Cream has more gold medals than almost any other beer; seven, I think). I'd happily order this again on a hot day in a shady bar.

Got some more, but I have to go sing. Maybe later.

Are you ready for some Goat Races?

Put it on your calendar (unless you already have it there, you smart beer-lover): the Sly Fox Goat Races are on May 6th, 11 AM to 6 PM. Details are here. And a smart pragmatic note from Sly Fox this year that it would behoove you to consider: if you want this to remain the carefree no-cover pay as you go fun afternoon it's always been...please buy beer only from the Sly Fox stands (and if you can, stick around P-ville and get dinner at one of the neighboring restaurants). It keeps everyone happy, and $5 a beer ain't that bad at all. Bring cash; it's all cash, which keeps the lines moving (bring fivers and singles; don't forget to tip!).

And bring your family! This is one of the best family-oriented beer events around, and your young children will be excited to see real goats right up close (and probably laugh out loud at the inevitable caprine antics that ensue). The crowd is very mellow, and stupid behavior is not only rare, it's usually taken care of by the other attendees; as it should be.

I'll have to miss it this year; I'll be in Iceland...more about that later. Please drink my share of [Winning Goat's Name Here] Maibock, and have my share of fun!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Session Beer Day, April 7!

I don't often double-post from one of my other blogs, but this is one of those times; since the Session Beer Project actually started here, it seems proper. 


I suggested to the members of the small (but rapidly growing) Session Beer Project page on Facebook that we should make April 5th (4.5) or April 7th (Little Repeal Day, when 4.0% ABV beer became legal before repeal of the 18th Amendment) our day, Session Beer Day. We could ask for session beers at our favorite bars, and brewpubs, and suchlike, invite people to try them, gin up plenty of social media whoopee, and all dat.

We decided on April 7: there are a lot of photographs of a LOT of Americans happily drinking 4.0% beer we can use, it's a day the beer industry is already aware of, and...it's a Saturday this year (the day before Easter, which is actually kind of weird for me; I have a tradition of drinking big beers that afternoon), which doesn't hurt when you're planning a beer event!

What to do? If you work at a bar (or manage one, or own one), please consider throwing some under-4.5% beers on for April 7th, and making a special price or promotion for them. Tell folks it's Session Beer Day, and encourage them to see how good lower alcohol beers can be. (Good day to get a "We Support" window sticker, too!) If you're a brewer or wholesaler, encourage your accounts to pick up your under-4.5% beers for that day; it's a great chance to promote those beers! If you're a beer blogger/tweeter/writer, please consider spreading the word about Session Beer Day: use the hashtag #sessionday . And if you're a session beer drinker...get out there and ask for it!

We've got some interest...but this is totally grassroots. This isn't a sponsored event, it's not organized (if you know me, you know that), and it's simply about going out and drinking session beer -- 4.5% or lower, good-tasting, great beer -- and enjoying it. 

Victory Expanding...in Chester County!

Just got this from Karen at Victory: the Downingtown brewery will reach capacity in 2012 (which I'm guessing means that they are not able to get more space at the current location), so they're going to be building a new additional brewery not far away in Parkesburg, PA. The water will come from the west branch of the Brandywine (see the whole water explanation below), so they can still make Headwaters there.

Congratulations to our booming local!

Victory Brewing Announces Expansion Plans
Second brewing facility will create more beer and more jobs.

DOWNINGTOWN, PA – Victory Brewing Company is opening a second brewery in Chester County, Pa., which will allow the company to continue to create new, innovative beers and additional employment opportunities.
In 2012, Victory’s current brewery in Downingtown, Pa. will reach capacity. In order to keep up with consumers’ demand for full-flavored, high quality beer, Victory is forging ahead with expansion plans.
“Our thirsty fans have been asking us for more,” said Bill Covaleski, President and Co-Brewmaster of Victory Brewing Company. “In order to give them what they want, we need more space to make it happen.”
The new brewery location was chosen because of its similarities to Victory’s home in Downingtown. Just as the home brewery recycled an old Pepperidge Farm factory, the expansion brewery is being built within an existing complex in Parkesburg, Pa. The Downingtown location is situated a mere 14 miles from the headwaters of the east branch of the Brandywine Creek and the Parkesburg brewery will be just 17 miles from the headwaters of the west branch.
Environmental impact and water quality were major considerations for this expansion. Nearly eight months of water-quality research found that the mineral composition of the west branch water is nearly identical to the east branch.
In keeping with Victory’s “locally brewed, locally loved” motto, the choice to expand was not made lightly. The Parkesburg location will allow Victory to produce even more locally brewed and locally loved beer.
“Growing into a new facility will have some growing pains,” said Ron Barchet, CEO and Co-Brewmaster of Victory Brewing Company. “But once we are up and running, it will allow us endless opportunities to experiment with new flavors and re-create old favorites.”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fleur de Lehigh

If you remember, I got a sample bottle of the new batch of Fleur de Lehigh back on my Pliny Day. Well...I took a ride today, and decided after I got back that a nice springy day like this was perfect to taste-test it.

To quote PBC rep Tony Madjor (from last year), "Fleur is an unfiltered Golden Ale brewed with ginger, lemongrass, rhubarb root, cardamom seed, and rose hips. Alcohol is 4.75%...amber color."

Fleur is indeed amber, and it is unfiltered: it's a uniformly hazy amber. But it is not uniform in taste, it's like no other beer I know, almost gruit-like in its spicy, herbal, vegetative intensity. It's like running through a hot meadow full of the blooming variety of summer, kicking up the warmed aromas released as you flash through the fields. It is perhaps my very favorite spiced beer, moreso than all the spiced winter beers and witbiers. Fleur is a beauty, an unabashed blast of flavors that meld into a beautifully intense experience. I intend to grab all of it I can get.

Friday, March 16, 2012

My one, my only, St. Patrick's Day post

I have been inundated with St. Patrick's Day-related press releases. I believe it has become a bigger drinking holiday than New Year's Eve -- at least, from a non-wine writing perspective. All kinds of beer and spirits companies have presented their boozes to me as PERFECT FOR ST. PATRICK'S DAY!

Well, bullshit. Let me give you some drinking advice for the original Green Day.

First off, feel free! If you want to go out and do the rounds tomorrow (or even start tonight), if you're going to be watching or marching in a parade, if you're going to have any kind of Irish dinner tomorrow (we're having champ and soda bread, and some good Irish cheese), if you plan to celebrate tomorrow for reasons sacred or profane...good on you. I don't hold with the hand-wringing about defamation of the Irish, or even the public drunkenness (as if the tailgating at any NFL game is any better), or the way a Catholic feast day venerating the memory of a true saint of the Church has become a whacked-out celebration (mostly for Americans). Big deal; it's what we do. Everyone around the world likes to have a party. If you're a puritan or a bluenose, stay home tomorrow and drink mineral water, and please, don't bother telling the rest of us that's what you're doing. We don't care.

Now, here's the drinking advice part. If you're going to celebrate with booze, do it smart. For instance, the beer we like to call dry Irish stout -- Guinness, O'Hara's, Beamish, Murphy's, O'Reilly's, Donnybrook, Dark Starr, Black Fly, whatever your local is -- often weighs in under 4.5% ABV (check your local faves on this; some are substantially more!), so it IS a session beer, regardless of what your idiot friends tell you about how much Guinness will EFF YOU UP!!! MAN!!!! It's a great beer for pacing yourself through a whole day of drinking, if that's what you're on to, and you can take in plenty of music and parade while doing it (just stay near the bogs, because you're talking a mighty volume of liquid).

Whether it's Irish or not, it's got more flavor than the usual alternative: green-dyed Miller Lite. Do you really want to drink crap like that? Look, if you don't like stout, Smithwick's is a pretty good amber (and still 4.5%), even the newly reformulated Coors-brewed Killian's is 4.9%, and it is, I'm happy to report, much tastier than it had become in its debased days.

If you'll be having whiskey -- and you should, you should -- Irish whiskey is the most friendly stuff you'll find, soft and sweet and very much approachable. You can hardly go wrong here, so it's almost foolish to steer you. The Holy Trinity -- Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore -- is readily available, and with the general improvement in the quality of Irish over the past 20 years, you can't really go wrong.

(And one addition to this, after I originally posted it: I don't generally hold with the precious snob talk about how you must drink your whiskey neat...but in the case of Irish? Since most of it is 80 proof, it's great neat, and that's how most folks do drink it. If you want a hot whiskey, and the place you're in will do one, and it's cold and raw like it is today here in Philly, do it!)

But look...why not up your game a bit, or at least try something different? For instance, my Irish bar go-to is Guinness and a shot of Powers. Can't go wrong, and let me tell you: good whiskey. Or try Black Bush, the sherry-aged Bushmills. Or fergodssake, try something from the "other Irish distillery," Cooley: Kilbeggan, or The Tyrconnell (a fine and delicate single malt).

Walking up the category works, too. For a bit more cash (lads, lasses: take cash tomorrow, don't feck about with credit cards, you'll just hold up other folks who need to get a drink! And don't forget plenty of dollar bills for tips!), you can get Jameson 12 Year Old, Bushmills 10 or the 1608, or Tullamore 10. See what Irish can offer.

If you want one good whiskey to start the afternoon, before you're just tossing stuff past your gums -- and remember, if you do drink whiskey, please pace yourself, you can't drink it like beer! -- take a moment to savor a nip of Redbreast, or Bushmills 16, or some smoky Connemara, or maybe a Midleton Very Rare. More money, but blessed be Jesus, well worth it.

So. That's the primer. Don't get thrashed -- it's unseemly -- but don't be afraid to have fun, and smile, and laugh, and shake hands with strangers, and sing! Have fun. Be a bit safe. And walk, take transit, or get a sober driver. I'll see you Sunday.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Little Housekeeping

I've had complaints recently about the "Captcha" verification for comments, so I've turned it off. If I get a ton of spam to deal with...I may have to turn it back on. Just letting you know.

Carlos Wept

Is the consolidation of big brewers going to reduce itself to absurdity? Speculation continues to strengthen that Anheuser-Busch InBev is going to make a bid for SABMiller. Leaving anti-monopoly issues out of it for the moment -- since, well, really: does anyone actually think the U.S. government is going to do anything about one company controlling 2/3+ of the beer market? Of course not; return to work, cogs -- let's think about this.

ABIB has the means to do the deal; they've been slashing costs and raising prices (even though their volume in their most lucrative market -- the U.S. -- is still dropping), they're making more money (not a great long-term state, how long can that go on, eh?)) and the debt from the purchase of A-B is either paid off or close to it; they've got a substantial warchest of almost $5 billion in cash/equivalents that will make a good start towards financing another acquisition.

ABIB probably wants to do the deal. SABMiller has been investing heavily in Africa and Asia, which are still growing beer markets (and ones where ABIB has not been particularly successful). And let's be honest: this is how Carlos Brito and InBev have worked for years. They are not brewers: they are bankers, and they grow their "breweries" by buying other "breweries," which are just counters, money, and markets to them. It's about money and balance sheets, slashing costs and raising prices. Anyone still shocked by that? God, I hope not.

Can SABMiller stop them? Dunno. Finance is not what I do. But judging from the speculation and the effect it's having on SABMiller's share price, it seems like a good guess that the answer is no. Especially since the market seems to "want" this to happen.

That's too bad. For one, the management at SABMiller is pretty sharp, especially in the U.S. part of the company. Sure, head honcho Graham Mackay said that craft beer would inevitably fade -- how's that working out for ya? -- but he's been brilliant on just about everything else. He's probably moving on soon anyway, but he's got some very smart lieutenants...and ABIB would probably dump them all and replace them with bean counters. It seems to be what they do.

This does mean something to you, of course. Consolidation will inevitably lead to more price increases, and when the mainstream beers that are still over 90% of the market take price increases, that's a green light to craft brewers to follow the leaders. Really, they do, because they can, and they want to pay their workers a better wage so that a craft brewmaster can finally make as much as a bottling line worker at a Miller plant.

The upshot? Kinda weird. Like I said here, 2 1/2 years ago, one of these days, Carlos Brito is going to run out of big breweries to buy...and then what happens? Will he start buying spirits companies? Will he start buying into wine? One thing I feel pretty sure about is that he won't suddenly decide to buckle down and make brewing the real focus of his energies. It's just not his style. Or his interest.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Session Beer Project posts this week

I know there's some reader overlap here with my other blog, The Session Beer Project, but in case you don't usually keep an eye on it, I've got two new posts up there that might interest you.

First, there's one about how brewers are jumping on the "session beer train" by using the word sessionable. Well, as of yesterday, I'm not using that word anymore, and I give my reasons why.

Second, and maybe more relevant here, I did an interview with Notch Brewing Company founder/brewer/everything Chris Lohring on the occasion of this all-session beer contract brewer's second anniversary. It's a good thoughtful interview, and I think you'll find it revealing about just how viable sub-4.5% craft beer is.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stone TBA

Those who know me well, know me in my unguarded moments, know me from my unpublished as well as published works...know that I'm skeptical of the vaunted impact of homebrewers on American craft brewing. Fritz Maytag wasn't a homebrewer, Bert Grant wasn't a homebrewer, Jim Koch may have brewed some batches at home, but all directed at his commercial product. Oh, I'll give you Ken Grossman, and Charlie Papazian, and -- here in Philly -- the influence of homebrew pioneers like George and Nancy from Home Sweet Homebrew. But I can't help thinking the industry is outgrowing the connection, and that homebrewers are mostly responsible for this bizarre fascination with stuffing hops into beers in every way possible...

And then I get a glass of something like this Stone/Fat Head's/Bear Republic collaboration project: TBA. I know this beer has homebrewing DNA (I know one of the homebrewers who was involved in the early origins of the 'style'), and I have a glass poured and waiting by the keyboard, and...wow, I can smell Columbus from here and it's grabbing me...

Poor little unsuspecting broonale...
Texas Brown Ale. The source of American Brown Ale, one of the earliest examples of the American habit of sneaking up on an unsuspecting English ale type, sapping it with a weighted floating hydrometer, dragging it into a dark basement, and ramming it full of hops until it shrieks with pine and citrus aromas... And it turns out to be a killer success

Why? Because it's a variant on our beloved hopsamatic, an IPA with sweet body, a sweet brown ale with a knife-sharp keel of steely hops. It is a beer that pleases, teases, and -- no, 'squeezes' would rhyme, but this beer slaps, there's no way around it. Excellent aroma, with the brown sugar and molasses swirling up through all the pine and citrus hops; good body, and again, sweet and bitter battle through. It fights to the last sip, and the finish stays bitter.

All right, homebrewers. You win this round. This is a beer with impact, and a beer that goes back to the beginnings of craft brewing, and at the earliest...it's a homebrew.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hone your craft with The Balvenie

Don't normally pass along stuff like this, but... this looked kind of cool, and a good opportunity for any Philly craftspeople. Please pass this along to anyone who might qualify: William Grant & Sons is very serious about supporting the arts and craftspeople, this is for real. Not to mention...the distillery is gorgeous, and the whisky is delish. See the link at the end of this press release to apply.

THE BALVENIE SEEKS CRAFTSMEN AND ARTISANS IN PHILADELPHIA FOR ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME “RARE CRAFT FELLOWSHIP”
The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky announced today the launch of the Balvenie Rare Craft Fellowship – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for American craftsmen across the country to a money-can’t-buy trip to Scotland to spend time at the legendary distillery and apprentice under another local craftsman of their choosing.  In addition, the recipient will be granted a $5,000 stipend towards materials, and four runners up will receive a $2,000 grant and a trip to New York to showcase their work. The Balvenie is seeking craftsmen in Philadelphia to apply to partake in this extraordinary celebration of the nation’s craftsmanship.
Craftsmen selected to participate in this unprecedented Fellowship will be discovered over the course of the 2012 Balvenie Rare Craft Roadshow, when the Balvenie Brand Ambassador Nicholas Pollacchi will hit the road in a custom hand built Morgan sports car in search of the workshops, lofts, studios and stores where the American craft revival is taking place and celebrating the craftsmen who are leading that revival. The Rare Craft Roadshow will be coming to Philadelphia on April 2 and 3, where Nicholas will meet with a selection of local artisans, all of whom will be in the running for the ultimate award!
The two-week fellowship in Scotland will feature a week at the historic Balvenie distillery, where they will learn more about the traditional crafts of whisky making. They will also have the rare opportunity to work with legendary malt master David Stewart to select whiskies for a very special “Craftsman Edition” of the Balvenie, to launch in 2013. The four runners-up will also each be offered the exclusive chance to exhibit their work to buyers and collectors in New York in the fall at The Balvenie Whisky Den, a pop up space in downtown Manhattan dedicated to traditional crafts.
           Craftsmen in the Philadelphia area, as well as those who wish to nominate someone, are encouraged to sign up immediately at http://www.thebalvenie.com/roadshow for this rare and singular opportunity.

Designing your own Tramp Stamp

The Old Eagle Tavern is doing an event with Massachusetts's Clown Shoes Brewery on March 29th that you need to get to work on right now. Clown Shoes is known for their Tramp Stamp "Belgian" IPA, and Old Eagle is having a 'tramp stamp competition.' Design your own tramp stamp tattoo (or ass antlers, if you prefer, and let me tell you, this post is taking me places I never thought the blog would go...) design and get them in by March 25th: email digitals to info@oldeagletavern.com , or drop them off at the Tavern (on 8.5X11 (or smaller) paper, not folded, and "must be camera ready"). Remember to include your name, email, and phone. Phone number, that is; no bribing with electronics. The "stamps" should incorporate beer, or Clown Shoes, or the Old Eagle, or something like that, eh?

An example for ya.

Winners will be awarded on March 29th at 7 PM at the Old Eagle. The two winners will be chosen by (1) the Clown Shoes people; and (2) 'likes' on the Old Eagle Facebook page, and will get gift baskets of beer stuff (good stuff, too). Finally, and the real reason I posted this -- other than an excuse to say 'ass antlers' -- there will be temporary tattoos available of the winners! I encourage you not to think about me putting one on. Oops, too late!


My Pliny Diary!!

Dear Beer Diary,

The last couple days have just been crazy for me! As everyone who is everyone in Philadelphia knows, a famously bitter man is in town, and we all want to meet him! That's right, I'm talking about Pliny the Younger, the awesomely-rated triple IPA from Russian River! You know? The beer that no one else gets but us on the East coast? Wow! Wow! I can hardly write this down, Diary, I'm so excited that I got some Pliny -- not one, not two, not three, but FOUR WHOLE GLASSES! (6 ounce pours, of course, let's be reasonable.)

Well, Diary, it all started Monday evening when the wife and I headed down I-95 to Philadelphia and the City Tap House, where we had been invited to come by and try one of chef Ralph Kane's new "suppers" (Disclosure time, Diary and readers: City Tap House paid for this dinner.), a series of daily one-plate specials. Monday night's sounded so Southern and robusto: chicken-fried sirloin, sharp cheddar biscuits, herb grits, sautéed spinach, with smoked Tasso ham gravy. We found parking easily on Walnut Street and took the elevator up to the restaurant. It was busy in the big bar, but we were seated right away in the dining room.

Diary, I knew Pliny was in town, but I didn't know he was at City Tap House until the waitress came over to ask if we wanted anything to drink, and I said I'd have to look at the menu, and she said "Andy Farrell wanted to know if you wanted the last two glasses of Pliny the Younger." We sure did!! Andy is the manager, and I've done some events with him in the past, and it was just so nice of him to notice and make that offer! Two glasses of hoppy nectar came, a deep orange-gold in color, and didn't Cathy and I just love them to pieces? (I'm doing a review of PtY for a magazine, so...can't really say anything here other than while Pliny may not live up to the hype -- and what beer could? -- it's quite the pleasant smack in the chops, and yes, worth a trip to town.)

After that, did we even notice the meal? Yes we did, though when the waitress came back and asked us what we wanted, we said, we're here for the Supper...she said, You'll split that, then? That seemed odd, but we figured she knew what she was talking about, and did she ever: the 'supper' came on one big plate, and it was a great pile of stuff! A man at the next table also got it, just for himself (his date got the tartufo pizza), and my hat's off to him, Diary: he finished it and mopped up the gravy! The sirloin was tasty and tender in a crackling coating of crisp breading, the gravy was smoky and flavorful, the grits were dense and delicious, the spinach was silky. The only disappointment was the biscuit; just barely warm, a bit tough, and for being called "sharp cheddar," it didn't really come through on the cheesiness. Still, 4 out of 5, Diary! I had a Southampton Burton Pale Ale with dinner, and it was quite nice, flavorful but not intrusive, and a good beer with the food.

Did your Pliny Day have a fire-breathing dino? Didn't think so.
That was just a warm-up for the next day: My Pliny Day, Diary! (More disclosure: I paid for all the beers and food mentioned after this (with two exceptions, noted below). Just so you know.) I went down early to Resurrection Ale House, where they had sent out an email to people on their list that they'd have Pliny the Younger on Tuesday, first 50 respondents would get a glass -- I was Respondent Number 4, Diary! I was actually too early; they started at 11:30, and I thought it was 11:00. Still, they let me in, and within 5 minutes had decided that they might as well pour mine (and one for the other early bird who came in the same time I did; sorry, I'm blanking on your name, a brewer at Iron Hill North Wales...Craig?), and in less than 16 hours, I was faced with another glass of PtY!!!! 

It was still great, and when I was done, I decided to run the Russian River Hop Trifecta, and got a glass of Pliny the Elder, followed by a glass of Blind Pig. Were they hoppy? Yes they were! Were they as hoppy as Pliny the Younger? Well...yes and no. PtE actually tasted more bitter than the Younger, and I think it was because of the lower malt body; it was a different balance. But I have to say...Blind Pig, which is normally a real hop zipper-ripper, tasted...just kinda hoppy after those two monsters! Wowzer! After that, I calmed down a lot with a small glass of Birrifica Seson, a saison from that acclaimed Italian brewery. It was very nice, herbal, complex, and Brendan Hartranft and I agreed we'd have to try some more Italian beers soon!

At this point, Diary, I needed a little down time! So even though the food at Resurrection is very good, I decided to walk up the street to Grace Tavern, which I have come to believe has one of the very best burgers in the city, and had one of those burgers for lunch, and it was yummy! I also had a tastily tart glass of Petrus Aged Pale Ale, and a great conversation with Philly Brewing man-about-town Chris Morris, who gifted me with a newly-bottled Fleur de Lehigh, one of my favorite spring beers. When I suddenly realized it was almost 1:45, I paid up, and ran for the Jetta: I had another date with Mister Pliny the Younger!

SPTR: the one, the only
Fifteen minutes later I was parked and walking to the South Philly Tap Room! They were tapping their keg of PtY at 2:00, and I got in just ahead of time -- "Lock that door!" someone joked as I walked in (do you think they wished I'd stayed away, dear Diary?!) -- and was happy to find my friend Christine Gumpper there, who offered me a seat at her table of friends, so I got to meet Derek and Dave, too! And just like that...it was Pliny Time again! We got PtY all around, and what do you think, Diary? It was just as astonishingly the third time around! Wow! The bar was buzzing with excitement. Then Kathryn (the bar manager) came by and dropped off another Pliny for me! Wow, Diary! Damn, it feels good to be a beerwrita!

I finished up my beer day -- not quite, but you'll see -- with a small glass of Allagash Saison Mihm, and it was delicate, sweet, spicy, and altogether soothing after the excitement of My Day With Pliny the Younger!!!! And you know the funny/sad thing, dear Diary? I was so excited about Pliny the Younger that I completely forgot that Kathryn had put on one of the very last kegs of the Sierra Nevada Exportation Sour Baltic Porter that I'd helped to make, a truly exceptional and one-off beer that was great, and delicious, and unique, and innovative (and aged in wine barrels for a year at Russian River...). How funny! How sad.

I had to have a coffee to get me home, and a cup of Rwandan at Brew Ultimo did me just right. But just to show that a beer-lover's totally great day isn't always over...when I came home and grilled up some bockwurst, with caramelized onions and steamed broccoli for our family dinner, I decided to settle in with a sample pounder of Narragansett Cream Ale, their new year-round brew...and it was excellent, just a bit sweet, just a bit bitter, and 100% refreshing. It was a great day in Philly with Pliny the Younger, but it was good to be home!

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Is Pliny the Younger all about the hype, "dear Diary"? Definitely not, it's a markedly good beer, and truly well-balanced for its size and hoppiness. Is it something people get crazy about? Sure, and Kate the Great, and Dark Lord, and all the other limited release beers people travel miles to get; sure they are. Is it bad that they do this? No, I don't think so. I wanted to ride that wave for a day and see what it was like. It was fun being in the East Coast city that gets the Younger, and it was fun being part of the excitement, and seeing how pumped everyone was.

But I really do feel stupid for missing that Exportation tapping, and it makes me wonder what other beers get lost in the super-hype shuffle, the beers that are completely under the radar because they don't get the geekerie as excited. Honestly, I get as excited about the idea of going to Uerige and having glasses of fresh altbier, or going to Bell's and sucking down fresh Porter, or going to Victory and draining what's left in the Dark Lager tank. I'm not one of those "all beer is good!" loonies, no fear. But don't forget to be excited about the good beers we have, and can get, wherever you are. Have one today.


A clarification: it's been suggested to me that I'm being overly mean-spirited here to the people on beer rating forums and others who get really excited about Pliny the Younger. Not my intention at all: I was actually making fun of myself, because after writing about not getting excited about Dark Intrigue, and not standing in line for beer...when that email to Resurrection's mailing list came out, I knee-jerked and responded to it just like anyone else. Guess I'm a geek at heart. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

American Beer Blogger: the latest

We had the pilot episode of American Beer Blogger in the can Thursday, or so we thought. I went to Green Leaf Studios in Easton, watched the show with the guys, and took a copy home; watched it again, and then watched it again with Cathy and Nora...and, okay, it maybe dragged a leetle bit in spots, but I was reasonably happy with it. Then just before I went for dinner with Cathy -- to Farm and Fisherman in Philly, and it was totally excellent: best damned egg I've ever eaten -- Rudy calls from the studio: PBS saw the pilot, and wanted "more beer in it."

Huh. We'd worked on having it not just be about the beer, because Stoudt's excels at making it about everything: the restaurant, the entertainment, bread baking, cheese making, their Stoudtburg village next door...it's all pretty cool (and the cheese is fricking awesome). But PBS is calling the shots at this point, and I could hardly argue with them wanting more beer in it, so I crammed an email full of as much info as I could get down in five minutes about what makes Stoudt's beers work, and what makes them different, and yeast, and hops, and malt; told Rudy that if he needed it, I could do voiceover work at the studio on Saturday, and ran out the door.

And I wound up doing voiceover this morning. It went well; I did my familiar take on the difference between ales and lagers (a hot jungle vs. a cold pine forest), the different malts in three of Stoudt's ales, and talked some more about hops. Meanwhile, John had re-edited the show, and there was now a LOT more beer in it, including some stuff from the first shooting we did back in May talking to Eddie Stoudt about bitterness in beer which was some of my favorite footage we did, and I was glad to see it back in. I actually like it better now: it's tighter, more focused on beer, and doesn't drag at all. Thanks, PBS.

This Thursday, at 10 PM (Eastern) and again at 10:30 PM, the show will air on WLVT. The station wants to know if people are interested in the show, and the only way to do that is to call them during or shortly after the show at 800.360.0039, or email them after the show. Tell them you liked American Beer Blogger, thank them for running it, and add something different of your own: why you love beer, where you live, your favorite craft brewer, that you're not my cousin, or something like that so they know you're not just reading from a script. Because I only want you to do this if you really like the show. If you don't, for some reason, don't call just to be a good person!


Okay. Here we go. The little beer show that could...no major sponsor, no contest or challenge, no big commercial network, no stars...just beer, the Stoudts, me, and you. Cross your fingers.